Milwaukee family 'Turkey Bowl' tradition predates Super Bowl

Thanksgiving is all about traditions, whether it's the food you cook or who you spend the day with. 

One Milwaukee family's special tradition on the gridiron predates the Super Bowl. The Kierzek’s annual Turkey Bowl is a ritual that doesn't require an invite.

"Everyone knew if it was Thanksgiving you were coming here to play football that day," said Tom Kierzek.

Kierzek is the founder of this Turkey Day tradition. Kierzek said back in 1965 on Thanksgiving Day, he was the oldest of nine rambunctious kids in his south side house. Their parents said it was time to get out and play.

"I got my brothers and my sisters at that time and some friends in the neighborhood and we started playing football," he said.

The game started out with just the kids. It’s documented in black and white at the beginning an album. As years passed by with pigskin in hand, Kierzek's perspective of the annual event began to change.

"Unfortunately that was the only time we saw these people, once a year," he said.

Fifty-three years and many generations later, they meet at the same park to celebrate the holiday in the same way. A bond was formed that couldn't be broken and the group continued to grow

"Initially we had maybe 10, 15 people here, then eventually we had maybe 30 to 35 so it got to be pretty big," Kierzek said.

Their kids like Jason Kierzek started to play.

"Just feel like we're young athletes again," Jason said.

Then grandkids came along.

"It's intense; we play real hard for one game a year," Jason said.

While bragging rights are always on the line, the score is rarely kept. Three generations now take the same field. It reminds young and old what this holiday is truly about.

"It's going to be a tradition that's going to last a long time,” Jason said. “It's about family and getting together. You kind of lose that nowadays.”
 

Print this article Back to Top